The Giver (Amazon Affiliate Link)
Author : Lois Lowry
Published By : HMH Books For Young Readers
Year Published : 1993
Genre / Tags : Fiction, Classics, Young Adult, Middle Grade, Dystopia
Formats : Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, Audiobook
# of Pages : 208 pages (Paperback)
Twelve-year-old Jonas lives in a seemingly ideal world. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver does he begin to understand the dark secrets behind this fragile community.
Waited way too long to read this book. It’s been on my TBR since age 10, and just sat and sat throughout the years. I’d figured that not unlike my experience trying read/re-read Harry Potter, there would be a sense of loss since this book was originally written for a younger audience. Happy and surprised to report that The Giver was completely appealing. It’s pretty much a timeless book that can be enjoyed at any age. (Not saying the Harry Potter series isn’t, just that I could tell while reading that my 12 year-old self is best served by it.)
The Giver is just 208 pages, which seems unbelievable since it has the scope and “full” feeling of a book that is at least 350+ pages. Usually I associate that sense with a book that is too slow and plodding. The Giver is fast-paced and consistently interesting- it just feels broader and bigger than one might imagine just looking at its tiny paperback frame.
The storyline follows Jonas, a boy on the cusp of becoming a teenager. He was born into a community where every action, every reaction, and every life decision is strictly regulated with an obsessive attention to detail and a goal of evenly measured perfection. Everything that happens is planned for in advance by a few choice individuals. Expectations are high and people who are considered stupid or sick or in any way deviating from a particular standard are sent away. Everyone gets along and lives a similar sort of life.
Jonas meets their expectations with such flying colors that he is given an opportunity for a career (or life’s work of sorts) that will grant him knowledge far beyond his peers. Becoming more informed about the nooks and crannies of this society, Jonas and the reader discover its cracks. (More like massive pitfalls, but I digress.)
The last book I read with a strong emphasis on detailing and developing a dystopian society was the original novel version of The Handmaid’s Tale. I honestly think The Giver is better than even that, with a main character that becomes increasingly enlightened rather than always coming off as glumly defeated (Offred). I am surprised more adaptations and fandom doesn’t surround The Giver, though perhaps it predates the proliferance of such things. Still, the world here is so rife with potential and interest.
The version I read has an afterward written by the author (I think it might be a speech she made.) Though it’s an aside, this section was my favorite part of the book. Gorgeously written and fully explains the main points to take away from The Giver along with its surprising down-to-earth inspirations. While I greatly enjoyed this book, reading that section really cemented this title as being among my all-time favorites.
One thing that could have been changed though is how appealing (or rather, unappealing) the setting is.
Maybe the major visibility of dystopians is coloring my vision here but I could barely remember or even remotely appreciate the “good” aspects of the community. It seems the author did want it to come off as somewhat seductive.
All the frightening and obsessive 1984-like madness of how people behaved made it impossible for me to see one good thing about the place. I think a bit more attention should have been paid toward making the nice and enticing-seeming bits more persuasive and less overtly creepy.
An important event near the end would have an even harder punch to it. Instead, my reaction was “I knew these people could/would do things like that.” and so it goes. But really, this is a near flawless read and I’m looking forward to the sequel.
Overall Rating – 10/10
Thanks for checking out my review of The Giver! Have you read this book or other books by Lois Lowry? Always curious to hear your thoughts. Definitely planning to read the sequels this year. ~ Kitty